A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 (LN2318) on the final approach after a test flight before delivery at dusk.
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The Federal Aviation Administration instructed airlines on Friday to inspect some stored Boeing 737 aircraft for corrosion, which could lead to engine shutdowns, as hundreds of aircraft remain idle due to a drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the FAA, the order to inspect aircraft that have not been operated for a week or longer will affect approximately 2,000 jets in the United States. The orders do not relate to the Boeing 737 Max, which has been discontinued since March 2019 after two fatal accidents worldwide.
Boeing advised operators of older 737 aircraft to check the engine valves for corrosion. The Airworthiness Directive came after four reports of single engine shutdowns caused by open engine ventilation air valves, the FAA said in its order.
"Because aircraft are rarely stored or used due to the lower demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, the valve can be more susceptible to corrosion," said the manufacturer's statement.
Alaska Airlines said that one of its planes experienced an engine shutdown on July 15 on a flight between Seattle and Austin, Texas, and that "flight safety was not compromised." After an emergency landing, the engine that had the problem was replaced in Austin, the airline said. The Seattle-based airline inspects six of its 737s on a maintenance basis. Work started before the FAA was ordered, the airline said.
According to American Airlines, four of the more than 300 Boeing 737 NG aircraft were inspected and released. The airline's operations are not expected to be disrupted, said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for American Airlines.
Southwest Airlines, which operates a Boeing 737-only fleet, said "it did not meet the conditions described in the policy," but is reviewing the order to determine if it applies to its aircraft.
"At the moment, we do not expect any operational disruption as we work to inspect the aircraft affected by AD in the warehouse," said the Dallas-based airline in a statement on the Airworthiness Directive.
Delta Air Lines also said it does not expect it to impact its operations or flight schedule.
"Our commitment to the safety of our customers and employees requires us to comply with and exceed all of our regulatory authorities' guidelines, including those relating to airworthiness," the airline said. "We will ensure compliance with this policy because at Delta nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and employees."
United Airlines also said it complies with the policy and does not expect its flight schedule to be disrupted.
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